May 26, 2020

How Does Obesity Contribute to Heart Disease?

According to the CDC, Kentucky ranks among the top 10 in the nation for the highest rates of obesity, and Indiana follows closely behind. This week, Richmond cardiologist Bryon Scott Cook, MD, helps listeners unpack the question, “Does obesity cause heart disease?” He discusses how being overweight can affect your heart by leading to harmful cholesterol levels, elevated blood pressure, clogged arteries, and increased risk for diabetes. In addition, Dr. Cook lists steps you can take today to address obesity and lessen your risk for heart disease.

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Show Notes

This episode of Health Talks Now, a Baptist Health podcast, focuses on the topic of obesity and its relation to heart disease, and is rooted in the high rates of obesity in the United States in general and Kentucky in particular.  Featured on this episode is cardiologist Dr. Byron Scott Cook, who notes that there are several issues often linked to both major heart trouble (such as heart failure or heart disease) and obesity.  These include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, and heart palpitations.  All of these issues put a person at risk of heart disease, and all are also generally helped by weight loss, along with such things as medication, proper diet, and increased physical activity.

Dr. Cook also explores the connections between smoking and vaping, heart disease, and obesity.  Smoking feeds into heart issues in various ways; for instance, it elevates bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol, can cause artery toxicity, and promotes blood clotting.  Of particular note in the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic is the fact that smoking and its effects can combine with COVID-19 in dangerous ways.  Dr. Cook specifically notes that a person with smoking-induced problems with blood clotting may find that COVID-19 has an additive effect, worsening the preexisting problems and making recovery from COVID-19 more challenging than it otherwise might be.  Vaping is related to smoking, and is advertised as a safer alternative, but there is not a great deal of clarity regarding all that vaping products contain.  Vaping is as harmful if not more harmful to the heart than smoking, and makes a person more susceptible to things like chest pain related to blockage and strokes.  It can also lead to depression, which in turn is a risk factor for obesity and other health issues.

After considering smoking and vaping, Dr. Cook leaves listeners with an idea of what to do with what they’ve heard.  In addition to not smoking or vaping, being active (for about 150 minutes/week, or about half an hour 5 days/week), maintaining a healthy diet, and possibly even considering weight loss surgery, he strongly recommends that patients maintain close connections to primary care physicians and receive an annual physical.  This way, they can be screened regularly for risk factors for heart disease.  He cautions listeners who already experience chest pain and shortness of breath to see a doctor, points out that some women experience heart disease with GI symptoms, discusses the connection between good sleep and heart health (including the risk sleep apnea poses for heart health), and addresses the urgency of care for heart trouble.  For patients who do experience major heart issues and seek help from Baptist Health, there are helpful aftercare options like cardiac rehab, and doctors like Dr. Cook to counsel them in a new lifestyle and whatever course of medication they may require.


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